In the bad old days, no one used to complain. After all, the men involved were heroes, top-gun airmen ready to give up their lives for their country. But times change, and at least 26 women claim they were assaulted and sexually molested by drunken Navy and Marine pilots at last September’s convention of the Tailhook Association, a naval aviators’ group. The scandal has already led to the resignation of Secretary of the Navy Lawrence Garrett III and to a continuing investigation by the Defense Department into what happened on the night of Sept. 7. Though most of the alleged victims are still reticent about revealing their names publicly, they no longer want to paper over the abuse. Many are themselves in the military. But there are also civilians, among them a petite, 29-year-old sales representative well call Kathie. She and a friend had been dining at a local restaurant when two well-groomed pilots invited them to a party the next night.
WE HAD JUST WALKED ONTO THE third floor. There was a lot of noise, so we went to see what it was. It looked like just a bunch of guys crowding around in a hallway. Then all of a sudden somebody stuck his head between my legs and lifted me onto his shoulders. I didn’t even have time to look at him. He started going into the crowd. It scared me, because everybody began grabbing at me. I was hanging on for dear life, not knowing what was going to happen.
They were grabbing every conceivable part of my body. I was thinking, “What is going to happen when I get to the end of this line—if I get there? Will I even have my clothes on?” I was hit in the face. They were grabbing at my breasts, at my crotch. I was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt. They pulled my clothes up. It wasn’t the kind of situation where one person could concentrate on a zipper or a bra. They didn’t care. They were just grabbing.
I was afraid of what would happen to me if I fell down in the middle of that crowd of grabbing hands. They just kept pushing me from one person to another. There were over a hundred guys crowding in there. I felt doomed. Even if I’d screamed, if I’d kicked and scratched, there was no place that I could go. They passed me along, the length of at least three hotel rooms. At the end, the guy just dropped me and disappeared. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I was frightened and humiliated and angry. I started to cry, and I found my way outside.
You think people like that, who fight for your country, have higher standards. I never expected anything like that from them. And to think that they all did it together. Not one of them said, “Stop!” How could they treat another human being that way? I don’t think this type of thing should be allowed to go on. I definitely think these guys should have something happen to them. And I don’t want just a simple apology.